within the Serious and Organised Crime
group (SO7) of London
's Metropolitan Police
. They are responsible for investigating robberies against cash
s, jewellers etc) and (if involving firearms
) commercial premises. Members of the Flying Squad are picked from uniformed police
officers with advanced driving skills, who are made honorary Detective Constable
s while they serve. Aside from specialising in driving very fast around London
, members of the Sweeney cultivate links with informant
s, gathering the necessary intelligence
to be one step ahead of the criminal
The Flying Squad was formed by Commissioner Sir Nevil McCready in 1919, to deal with a crimewave caused by an influx of demobilised unemployed veterans into London. The 'Mobile Patrol Experiment', as it was prosiacally known, was headed by Inspector Walter Hambrook, who had a roving commission, two horse-drawn canvas-covered vans and twelve detectives under his command. The intention was to cover the entire metropolitan area rather than remain confined to individuals districts, and to sweep in and make arrests just as a street crime was being committed. With this mobility and daring swiftness they were nicknamed the 'Flying Squad' by one gushing editorialist.
By 1921 the squad head expanded to 40 officers (or 'thief takers'), but it wasn't until 1948 that the squad became an independent branch within the Metropolitan Police. Their autonomy and elite status ensured that they were the first police to be given cars, later to include Ford Granadas and high-powered Jaguars. Over the years the Flying Squad has delt with a number of known criminal personalities, including the Kray Brothers and Brixton nail bomber David Copeland, and in 2000 spectacularly foiled a gang of thieves in the act as they attempted to steal £200 million worth of diamonds from the Millennium Dome.
The squad was merged and renamed the 'Central Robbery Squad' in 1978, although its more theatrical moniker remains commonly used. They are also known as 'The Sweeney' or 'Sweeney Todd', derived from Cockney rhyming slang (Todd = squad, but could also come from Plod). The exploits of the Flying Squad were shown in a 1970s TV series called The Sweeney.